What If God Was One Of Us?

16 Jul

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β€œWhat If God Was One Of Us?” was a top 40 radio hit in 1996 and catapulted Joan Osborne into the position of being one of Americas top female vocalists. It was a time when female vocalists were making as big an impact on the music charts as their male counterparts. Artists like Tracy Chapman, Sheryl Crow Sarah McLachlan brought the feminine side of transcendence back into the musical mix like it was when folk and rock touched through the music of Bob Dylan and the Byrds. Back then artists like Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Carole King represented the feminine mystique.

So when β€œOne of Us” hit the charts against all odds, because of its religious content and message, it drew attention like the siren’s did Odyseus. Eric Bazillian of the 1980’s new wave band the Hooters wrote the song to capture the heart of a girl, who later became his wife. The story reminded me of how Randy Stonehill wrote β€œKing of Hearts” as a result of failing to write a love song directed to the girl of his dreams and later changed the direction to the almighty diety that most people call God, The Wholly Other or the unspeakable glory known in the Bible as the Tetragrammaton. Bazillian and another former Hooter, Rob Hyman discovered Osborne singing in a bar and decided to record her, so they put together a band that they performed in and recorded an album that they primarily wrote the songs for. The album showcased Osborne’s incredible vocal range that established her as one of the best female vocalist’s in the country, if not the world.

Osborne is a blues singer, but at the same time she has an expanded perspective on music that delves into a spiritual dimension as deep as gospel, but from an Eastern perspective. Even before she caused a theological firestorm, when β€œOne of Us” became a top 40 hit and she got 5 Grammy nominations, she was a student of Sufi devotional music, called qawwali. Sufism is Islamic in origin, resulting from 11th century Persians immigrating to the region that became known as Pakistan, but was then India. It is mystical and introspective in nature and the purpose of the music is to achieve transcendence beyond sexuality. That was back in 1996, when β€œOne of Us” was still a top 40 radio hit.

So now fast forward 18 years and Osborne isn’t backed up by her bar band that accompanied her for her Relish tour, but the Holmes Brothers a black gospel group that she helped produce albums for as well as appearing on them and vice versa. The Holmes Brothers took the stage and performed β€œAmazing Grace” as their opening number and then did 2 others before Osborne joined them. Once she hit the stage and opened her mouth, the heavens opened and she covered everything from the Grateful Dead to Ike and Tina Turner, with as much passion and transcendence as Ustad Fateh Ali Khan.

http://www.joanosborne.com/

Utube videos of “One of Us”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mc_QQIPQ2e8

kickstarter Qawwali Sufi project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1458900925/sufi-qawwali-a-documentary-by-fanna-fi-allah

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